Hello, everyone, I’m Doug Elmendorf, dean of Harvard Kennedy School. I am delighted to join Professor Brooks and President Bacow in welcoming you to this special celebration of the legacy of William Monroe Trotter. Thanks to the hard work and insight of Professor Brooks and his colleagues, and thanks to the generosity of our guests with their time and perspectives, this celebration will be a fascinating and important event.

Before coming to this conference, one might have wondered why we are talking about William Monroe Trotter today, 150 years after his birth. The answer, I think, is straightforward: We are talking about William Monroe Trotter today because the example he set of service and advocacy in pursuit of justice is as relevant now as it was when he was alive. 

Throughout his life, Trotter spoke and acted boldly and courageously against racism and for civil rights and social justice. As a Black journalist and publisher, he spoke truth to power. In his words, he founded Boston’s Guardian newspaper to “hold a mirror up to nature.” He wrote, “We will not apologize, and we will not retreat—the Guardian makes itself responsible for our collective deliverance. None are free unless all are free.”

Trotter was an inspiration in his day, and he should be an inspiration for us today. We all know that this country continues to struggle with racism, restrictions on rights, and social injustice. So, we need to remember Trotter’s boldness and courage. We need to hold a mirror up to nature ourselves. We need to remember that none are free unless all are free, and we should not rest until all are free.

The William Monroe Trotter Collaborative at the Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership carries on Trotter’s legacy and is motivated by his life and work. When Cornell William Brooks agreed to join the Kennedy School’s faculty a few years ago, we were thrilled. And we are delighted that he had the vision for the Trotter Collaborative as a way to teach students how to analyze and address injustice. We are very pleased that Devon Crawford helps to lead this important work as staff director.

The Trotter Collaborative is a wonderful example of the Kennedy School’s model of combining teaching, research, and direct interaction with practitioners to make a better world. Through these three intertwined activities, we improve public policy and public leadership so people can live in societies that are safer, freer, more just, and more sustainably prosperous. This is our mission at the Kennedy School, and the Trotter Collaborative has become a key part of who we are and what we do.

The events of tonight and tomorrow will give all of us a chance to learn and engage with one another. I hope the discussions will make us think, will teach us things we don’t know, and will inspire us. Together, we can envision—and then achieve—a more just future. Thank you for being here.